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For comedian Steve Moore, "positive" is not just a medical status, but an outlook on life.

Think Positive

"I Never Knew Oz Was in Color"
Fieldens Cabaret Theater
8 p.m., Friday and Saturday
Through July 31

It would be easy to dismiss Steve Moore as a comic who has turned his HIV-positive status into a career-defining gimmick. Easy, that is, until you see his one-man show, "I Never Knew Oz Was in Color," currently playing at Fieldens Cabaret Theater. "Oz" is a rough-and-tumble trip through a life full of surreal interludes and restless pursuits that mixes stand-up comedy, bits of performance art and onstage therapy.

Moore even refers to himself as "that wacky AIDS guy," but he is clearly something more. While he exploits his experiences for their abundant humor, he also exposes himself in a daring and nakedly dramatic way. Amidst the plentiful laughs, Moore develops underlying themes of self-discovery and self-definition. When he triumphantly declares "I AM somebody" near the shows conclusion, you realize you've witnessed a voyage of redemption. Clearly being "positive" is not just a medical status for Moore but an outlook on life.

Moore grew up in Danville and gets plenty of comic mileage out of portraying his mother and father, Wilma and Skeets. The outrageously bitter Wilma is queen of the malapropism, accusing O.J. Simpson of nearly "decaffeinating" his ex-wife and declaring that her friend is going through "the mental pause."

Skeets is a stoic man of few words, who seems to have introduced Moore to comedy through some truly bad jokes. But just when you think his folks are going to serve solely as joke fodder, Moore shows a powerful video of Wilma and Skeets explaining their reaction to their son being HIV-positive. By the show's end, Moore's parents emerge as complex and compelling characters.

After leaving Danville for Hollywood, Moore stumbled through numerous misadventures in his quest for fame: waiting tables, delivering singing telegrams, and even working the graveyard shift at Jack-in-the-Box. These stories provide opportunities for Moore to portray several nutty characters, including a smarmy producer, a classic bad comedian, and the unfortunate preacher who officiated at his wedding-of-convenience with a lesbian. Included for fun are tales of unexpected liaisons with famous people, copious amounts of substance abuse and even a hilarious, video-enhanced exploration of the gay bathhouse scene.

Shining through it all is Moore's expert ability to tell a joke. His style is straightforward and unforced, none of the smugness of a Jerry Seinfeld or the hyperactivity of a Robin Williams. His props are simple and few, and there is little of a true set to speak of. Instead, the Fielden's stage is dominated by an electric piano and a big-screen television, used for showing the small number of video snippets used in the show.

The television glows brightly even during the show's blackouts, standing as an ever-present reminder of Moore's most visible achievement, his award-winning 1997 HBO special, "Drop Dead Gorgeous." But as Moore explains, hitting the big time didn't change his HIV status and the disease still takes its toll. Though he has survived 10 years with HIV, Moore says he still wakes up every morning and says, "Thank you," for another day. Richmond can thank Moore for sharing his hilarious and courageous show with

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